SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Two of the electric cooperatives in southeastern South Dakota said they have been preparing for the forecasted high winds Wednesday night as if it were an expected severe thunderstorm.

KELOLAND meteorologists have said winds could gust as high as 70 miles per hour during the evening and into the night.

“We always have crews on call,” said John Euchner, the operations manager for Southeastern Electric Cooperative. Other employees have been given the heads up they could be needed, Euchner said.

As to the equipment, “We’ve made sure everything is gassed up and ready to go,” Euchner said.

Just like with a severe thunderstorm, high winds could knock out power lines or loosen tree branches that knock out lines.

Ted Smith, the vice president of engineering and operations for Sioux Valley Energy cooperative, said the cooperative communicates with its overhead wire contractors and tree trimming contractors.

“We want to make sure what crews are available and where they are at,” Smith said.

When an outage is reported electrical crews can respond.

“As long as the visibility is good and it’s not a whiteout, we can get out…,” Smith said. “Our crews take their trucks home so they can get out immediately. They are spread out across our service territory to be the first ones to respond.”

Euchner said it must be safe for crews to respond in an outage. In an extreme case, a crew may respond if a county sheriff contacts the cooperative about a live electrical wire on a car, Euchner said. “Unless it’s something like that, we won’t go (if it’s unsafe),” he said.

A glancing blow

“Hopefully, this is just a glancing blow,” Euchner said of the predicted high winds. “I think the folks in Iowa are going to get the most direct hit.”

Euchner and Smith said they understand the high wind gusts will hit this evening but be reduced after several hours. The wind may be at 30 mph but the high gusts should be done overnight, they said.

“By 10 or 11, we should know how bad (it is)…,” Euchner said.

Smith said not much snow or ice is predicted for the region which will help. Power lines with ice and snow on them are more vulnerable in high wind, Smith said.

While severe thunderstorm type conditions without major snow conditions are unusual for December, Smith said in April of 2019, the region had a high windstorm that included ice.

If the power goes out

The cooperatives want the public to report power outages through the phone.

The phone number for Southeastern is 1-800-333-2859. The phone number for Sioux Valley is 1-800-234-1960.

The South Dakota Rural Electric Association (SDREA) has a power outage map that lists the location of outages in the state.

Sioux Valley also has its own power outage map on its website.